It has been revealed that Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, host of NPR’s "Infinite Mind," earned at least $1.3M from drug makers. He received the payments for giving lectures. NPR says it did not know about the payments, Goodwin says it did, but clearly the show’s listeners did not.
Did the payments compromise the integrity of the show? Who knows. Did they compromise the perception of the integrity of the show? Yes, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Everyone understands that people who speak at seminars should be compensated for their time and expertise. Seminar presentations require lots of work, and even if you have given the exact talk before you are still taking time away from your family, your work, or both.
But your radio show listeners (and your patients) have a right to know that you are receiving income from the manufacturer of the drug you are recommending. Why? So that they can make an informed decision of whether to accept the recommendation.
To be sure, the simple fact that someone is being paid to push / prescribe a drug does not mean that one should not take the drug. Nor does it mean that this or any other doctor would not have recommended the use of the drug absent the receipt of payments.
But it is naive to think that no doctor would be influenced by such payments as they develop their prescribing habits, LIkewise, one can quickly see that such payments could infuence what a doctor says about the payor’s product on a radio program.
Do you think I am wrong? Well, read this post, which reports on a study by Forbes that a doctor who owns an interest in a MRI is four times as likely to order MRIs for his or her patients.
I am not slamming doctors. I am just suggesting that it is not unusual for the receipt of income or the risk of loss of income to impact the conduct of humans.
And doctors are human.